After a hellish layover, you are really looking forward to cramming your ass into a Delta economy seat for six plus hours. You’ve been up since 4 AM local time, and want nothing more than to eat your meagerly portioned vegetarian lasagna in peace.
You trudge down the aisle towards your seat: 34G. It’s the window, which you like, since you can watch the patchwork of farms and suburbs shrink as you leave and grow as you arrive. You can also rest your head against the bulkhead in hopes of pulling down some much needed unconsciousness.
But sitting in your seat is another. She looks like a skeleton who got into a Maybelline factory and just went nuts. Her eyes are huge and wild, never blinking, and her overly sticked lips are cracked and dry.
“Hi, I’m 34G.”
“OK. Guess that means we’re together.” She makes direct eye contact with you. You know this is going to be bad.
She seems completely content with staying in your seat, so you take the aisle instead. It’s not ideal, but best not to start the flight with some petty drama over a seat. As you sit down and remove your coat, bending down to shove it uncerimonious underneath the seat in front of you, you notice the smell. Cheap au de toilette and the unmistakable smell of aloe vera and lidocaine.
Before you’ve even taken off your hat, she asks what you do for a living.
“I’m a writer.” You try to keep the conversation terse, as you’re exhausted and not feeling particularly chatty.
“I am a scientist.” Her voice is harpy-like, tainted by the cringe inducing elements of a thick, Minnesota accent.
“OK.” You look down, fumbling for something to serve as a distraction.
She proceeds to tell you that not only is she a scientist, but she is a bionanotechnologist. You nod. Her eyes flash with eccentricity bordering on full blown insanity. She explains that she is working on something that will “literally change the face of science” but no one respects her findings because she’s a woman. She tells you for the first of about thirty times during the flight that she is fifty-two years old.
She promises to show you her data via a PowerPoint after she’s gone to the bathroom. You politely decline, but she demands you see, as it is apparently very important. As she gets up, you notice her outfit for the first time; a saggy white tank top with the word “Cardio” in bright pink, written in stylized characters. Her ill-fitted yoga pants match.
The woman across the aisle shoots you a sympathetic look. You look around in a panic for a free seat, but this appears to be a full flight. You’re stuck next to the nanobiotecnolometerologist for the next six hours, and there ain’t shit you can do about it.
When she returns, she doesn’t give you a chance to stand up, and instead awkwardly squeezes by you, forcing your laptop up into your face. She sits down and rummages in her bag, pulling out dozens upon dozens of tiny bottles, all filled with unidentified liquids. You are pretty sure she shouldn’t have gotten through security with all of that, but you say nothing.
She proceeds to slather green aloe vera gel all over her shoulders. Before you can ask, she leans in closer than appropriate and proceeds to show you the soft tissue sarcoma that has blown a crater into her shoulder. She is applying the aloe vera to combat the targeted radiation she had that morning and tells you that it is like the worst sunburn you can imagine. You pray for deliverance or death, whichever comes first.
She doesn’t stop talking. After she orders her first glass of pinot grigo, she starts swearing profusely, claiming that, “we’re all fucked” and “don’t even know that we’re fucked.” She also manages to casually slip in several blanket racial slurs, mainly directed at the “dirty” Russians and the “scheming” Chinese.
By now, she has pulled out her MacBook; a filthy thing with more specs of crap on the screen than you’ve ever seen. She has sticky notes stuck on either side of her touchpad; the are penned in some arcane language, or at least by someone who doesn’t understand how to communicate with other humans.
As she goes through slide after slide after slide after slide, of images of metastasised mouse tumors, she points out how her sub 50 nanometer biocapsule is the solution to every problem in the world, including cancer, heart disease, and somehow, Downs Syndrome. She gets to a slide with human test samples, which she not-so-subtly mentions came from her living tissue. She also let’s you know in disgusting detail how she has injected herself with her own, unproven, untested nanocapsules, and that, “they totally worked.”
The technology she is describing is actually sort of fascinating, so you start to write it down in your notebook. You’re thinking, “maybe I can get a bitchin’ SciFi story out of this torment.” She eyes your journal suspiciously and asks if you’ve ever been to Iran. You say no and stare at her blankly. In the dim cabin of the C767-300ER, her crumpled, thin hair makes her look like an extra from Hellraiser.
When the horrific nightmare that is the sub-50 nanocapsule presentation is over, she finally asks why you’re travelling. You explain that you are on your way to meet your wife for an adventure in Ireland. An Emerald Isle Honeymoon, if she will. She won’t. She tells you she is going to meet her younger sister, if the plane doesn’t crash into the middle of the Atlantic while we’re all asleep.
With no conversational transition, she tells you how her marriage has been destroyed because she’s going to be dead in a few years, and how it is important that you and your significant other “test” your relationship by going through some physical hardship. I bite my tongue to keep from suggesting that perhaps her unbridled maniacal monomania might possibly kind of sorta have something to do with her problems.
You’ve tried everything at this point to politely get her to shut the fuck up. When you pull out your Nintendo DS to appear otherwise occupied, she tells you that she is old enough to be your mother, and that video games are “a fucking waste of time.” She tries to read to you from her “Hinduism for Dummies” book. You can’t decide which would be easier: killing her or killing yourself.
The next three hours are like a fever dream; she mentions that she is an incest survivor (you can only guess what that means, and that guess is terrifying), slaps you on the thigh with her emaciated arm at one point after she tells a joke, and explains how she shouldn’t really be running a $100,000 chemistry lab in her basement and injecting her cats with experimental drugs, but the EPA doesn’t give a big enough shit to do anything about it.
Every time you try to fall asleep, she leans in and says something completely asinine like, “think we’re still over the water?”
When skeletor asks you what all those green things lining the outsides of the farms are, use one or two word responses, and feign (or just give into) exhaustion. Keep responding to keep her looking out the window.
When the plane finally lands, grab your things, and start talking to the couple behind you. Doesn’t matter what you talk about, just talk.
Bolt for customs. Prey some unnatural evil doesn’t give her strength. Clear customs, escape into the wilds of Ireland, bereft of sanity, haunted by the smell of Banana Boat after burn lotion and poorly applied lipstick.